Zardari may cancel UK visit over Cameron's terror remarks

Last Updated 30 July 2010, 09:12 IST

Cameron said in Bangalore on Wednesday that Pakistan should not have ties with groups that promote the export of terror to Afghanistan or India.Following an angry reaction from Islamabad, Cameron defended his remarks, saying that it was "important to speak frankly" and that while Pakistan had "made progress... we need them to do more" to tackle terrorism.

Senior officials of the Foreign Office here were particularly irked that the British Premier made the remarks during a visit to India, and especially after three senior British leaders had visited Pakistan following the formation of the new government in the UK, diplomatic sources told reporters.

The officials last night discussed the possibility of Zardari calling off his visit to Britain next month to convey Pakistan's displeasure but the presidency insisted that he would go ahead with the trip, the sources said.

Though no official announcement has been made as yet, Zardari is expected to reach London on August 3 after completing a three-day visit to France.

During the weekly news briefing in the Foreign Office yesterday, spokesman Abdul Basit said Zardari's visit to Britain "is on" and would be announced at an "appropriate time."
A desire to maintain balanced ties with Britain and plans to formally launch slain former premier Benazir Bhutto's 21-year-old son Bilawal as the Chairman of the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) influenced Zardari's decision to go ahead with the visit, sources said.

Bilawal recently graduated in history from the prestigious Christ College at Oxford University though he will be unable to contest elections till he turns 25.

Despite the stand taken by the President, other Pakistani leaders like Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi have expressed surprise and anger at Cameron's remarks.

Speaking in the Senate or upper house of Parliament yesterday, Gilani said: "Such statements could affect the war against terrorism."

He made the comments following protests by opposition and ruling lawmakers over Cameron's warningQureshi was more pointed in his response to Cameron's remarks, saying in a statement: "We take serious exception to any suggestion that falsifies facts and tends to put the entire onus of terrorism on Pakistan. This is totally unacceptable."
The criticism of Pakistan by Cameron and other Western leaders followed the disclosure of secret US documents by WikiLeaks that alleged that there were links between the ISI and Taliban.

But Qureshi said Pakistan's "achievements and successes against terrorism cannot be negated or belittled by the disclosure of evidently self-serving and skewed reports on WikiLeaks."

Meanwhile, the Dawn newspaper reported that the British High Commissioner was likely to be summoned to the Foreign Office so that Qureshi could hand over a demarche to him seeking a full explanation on Cameron's comments.

(Published 30 July 2010, 09:08 IST)

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